The Mumbai eatery fire

The huge fire in a Mumbai eatery on Thursday-Friday midnight killed fourteen people, mostly women, not by burning them but by choking them to death as there was only one entry-cum-exit in the building. This is reminiscent of what happened in the Amri Hospital at Dhakuria in south Kolkata in 2011 in which ninety people, mostly patients were killed, mostly because of suffocation. After the Mumbai tragedy it has now come to light that the rooftop eatery, “1-Above` where a party was going on had no licence, that all exit points except one were blocked, that there were no fire-fighting mechanism in place and that all these irregularities had gone on for a long time right under the nose of the BMC – the civic body of the metropolitan city. Now a frantic blame game is going on, each concerned authority eager to disclaim any responsibility and passing the buck to someone else. The Mayor has the insufferable hauteur and hubris to say that it is not his duty to go and check every hotel in the city. Obviously not. But it is his duty to ensure that those whose duty it is to check whether the hotels are observing the civic laws are doing their job or not. He has failed on that score and he cannot be excused on any account.
What has happened in the Kamala Mills compound is a tragedy that was waiting to happen. Several authorities – the civic body, the police, the fire-brigade people – should be held jointly and severally responsible for this gruesome tragedy.  But for their culpable complicity in not enforcing the statutory provisions for such buildings the eatery could not have turned into a blazing inferno. Now the Fadnavis Government in Maharashtra should make it a point to ensure that the authorities concerned make a thorough inspection of such buildings not only in Brihanmumbai but throughout the State. There should be specific provisions in the relevant laws for fixing responsibility on concerned individuals so that each one is held accountable and cannot escape through any legal hole after such incidents. Negligence and dereliction of duty usually takes place when the people know that nobody can be held guilty for not doing his duty by passing the buck on to others. If this is not done, there will be a repetition of such accidents, creating commotion for a few days and then dying out and forgotten till the next one happens.

Thursday, 4 January, 2018